Young Girl With The Bright Eyes
Posted by Cate on August 5, 2008
Teen and child beauty pageants have long been a source of consternation for feminists and those who write about the sexualisation of children and the erosion of childhood as younger women are painted and decorated in mimicry of adult women in ways that cause many of us who have far left childhood behind to react with a combination of disgust, pity for the child, and awe that anyone could be bothered with the maintenance.
Here’s one of the latest from the UK tabloid The Daily Mail.
The article titled “Mummy’s little Lolita: The 11 year old girl whose beauty treatments cost 300 pounds a month to make her look like Barbie” features 11 year old Sasha Bennington who enjoys a $650 a month beauty regime which includes hair extentions, fake nails, fake tan, make up and a pierced belly button.
I’m not exactly a fan of The Daily Mail for honest, truthful, accurate journalism (all subjective words I appreciate). Nor do I hold British tabloids as the arbiters of morality and social standards. But I had to agree with journo Jenny Johson when she asks:
What sort of mother wants her daughter to look like a doll? The image I have in my head is of Exorcist Barbie…
Mum Jayne aged 31 (younger than me sadly) is a former ‘glamour model’ who considers former glamour model Jordan preferable to Britney Spears and comments:
‘I don’t understand why people get so upset about it. None of it is permanent. Tans wash off. Hair extensions come out. Why all the fuss?’
The family have been recently filmed in a BBC documentary about Sasha’s adventures in the US as she compete with other pre-teens in a Texas beauty pageant.
I can’t help thinking, is that the best you can do? What if you aspired for your daughter to be a doctor or artist or politician, some kind of career where she uses her mind for more than colour combinations and her make up choices? Can’t you aim a bit higher? Or am I being horribly classist? Are the faux representations of women the young girls mimic more authentic than I realise? Jordan is after all a “businesswoman”.
Further, can a child of 11 be making active free willed choices or are her aspirations based on the possibilities she sees as attainable? Is my suspicion of stage mothering overly simplistic?
And if you are wondering what happened when child beauty pageants grow up, you might enjoy Painted Babies at 17 a BBC Radio 4 documentary which revisited 17 year old women who previously appeared in a documentary following the fortunes of two five-year-old entrants in a junior beauty pageant in America’s deep south. Disturbing stuff.